A Brazilian agriculture powerhouse is in all our best interests, despite what the Irish farm lobby will tell you.

As Ireland scrambles to find ways to reduce our carbon emissions and new methods to increase sequestration, the world’s best carbon sinks remain desperately under threat.

At this point, it’s fair to ask - will the legacy of Ireland’s farm lobby’s influence on national and European policy be one of serving personal financial interest at all times or one of serving the best for humankind?

Farm leaders constantly tell us we are food production goliaths, creating enough to feed over 50m people, but at what cost?


Vegetation and the ocean are the two most important carbon sinks we have. Humanity has, for a myriad of reasons, turned some of our best sinks into carbon sources.

One of the best publicised examples is the ongoing destruction of the Amazon rainforest in South America.

With almost 60% of this world-sustaining asset located in Brazil, the country has become synonymous with deforestation for many of us in Europe.

It’s impossible for the mind to comprehend how great these areas of forest loss are, even if we break it down into football fields disappearing per second.

Three 2024 Nuffield Ireland scholars, Niall Hurson, Michael Martin and Nick Cotter, visit a JBS plant near Campo Grande, MS.

It was on the flight home via Amsterdam from the Nuffield Contemporary Scholars Conference in Brazil where I had one of the most insightful conversations about the current state of affairs in the country.

I had just spent two weeks speaking with public representatives, farmers and researchers, and now onboard a packed Boeing 777 I was joined by wonderful São Paulo residents Andre and Fernanda.

The couple were en route to Amsterdam for two weeks of work and vacation. We got chatting right from the safety brief and the conversation continued well into the almost 11-hour Atlantic crossing.

How does Europe help Brazil become better at managing its environmental impact and producing sustainable food I ask.

Throwing away money

The couple warn against the danger of just throwing money at the problem, instead suggesting Europe launches specific projects and invests expertise into communities.

They say Europe needs to also consider the importance of other biomes in Brazil and help improve the ability for Brazilians across all of society to speak out against poor practice and those in public representative roles.

Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest halved in 2023 from the previous year to its lowest level since 2018, according to government data.

Satellite monitoring detected 5,152 square kilometres of forest cover destroyed in the Brazilian Amazon last year.

In the crucial Cerrado savanna below the rainforest, clear-cutting hit a new annual record last year, rising by 43% from 2022. It’s time now we all accept that it’s in everyone’s best interest that Brazil becomes the best in class at food production.

Instead of criticising the likes of the EU-Mercosur trade agreement, we should be capitalising on getting our best advice and technology into South America. We need Brazil to be stable and prosperous.

If you’re still in any doubt, ask yourself what’s more important to you: the €/kg of an R=3+ heifer in ABP Clones or the health and wellbeing of billions of fellow humans around the globe.

Niall Hurson is a 2024 Nuffield Ireland scholar and together with all his fellow Irish and global contemporary scholars, during March he attended the Nuffield International Contemporary Scholars’ Conference hosted by Nuffield Brazil.